Riding Fixed, Up Mountains, with Pros – Episode 6: Lone Pine



Donned the "luxury sportsman" after burning out on professional cycling, Angus "Gus" Morton instead pursued a career in television and film, and later created Thereabouts. Much more than a docuseries, the movement almost singlehandedly rewrote the modern road bike rulebook. Gus is debatably the pioneer of contemporary adventure cycling.

Cycling is a sport uniquely centered around suffering. Those who take off with it, excel and succeed, find a way to welcome and harness that suffering somehow. Most of us think that's fucking crazy though, even after buying a bike that stirs your loins every time you walk by it in the house. But Gus was bent on reengaging with the sport that's so easy to fall out of love with, and in the noble pursuit he showed us a most critical unlearning of material barrier.

There's a collective sentiment, "slow-car-fast", among a lot of car people who believe that you're almost certainly gonna have more fun smashing a Toyota Tercel in the twisty mountain roads than driving a Shelby through a school zone. While that's entirely valid, driving cars fast is very fun, but it's vanilla-ass-regular, Type I fun, entirely void of the suffering that we cyclists celebrate, mostly in recollection of the sport's Type II crux.

We've indirectly taken a lesson from Gus in this here series of our own we call, Riding Fixed Up Mountains with Pros. Though ours is conversely a "fast-bike-slow" sentiment, perhaps it's just Type I as well? No, not even close, if only for you, our beloved and sadistic audience. But don't even start to think about feeling guilty about that – I'm looking at an email from Gus sent on Thursday, March 29 this year, at 1:18pm, a time of day and a day of the week that still lends clear-headed and sober communication...

"We should do one where it takes so long to climb and it's so hard that we need to sleep overnight at the top of the mountain."

Welcome to Episode 6 in the Eastern Sierras of Lone Pine.

Our story starts along Highway 395 in Eastern California, where the frontier town of Lone Pine sits in Owens Valley, east of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. The Sierras are home to the highest point in the contiguous USA, Mount Whitney at 14,505 ft, and most of the hiker traffic pass through Lone Pine for 3-star Mexican food at Bonanza. Despite a population of only 2,000 residents, Lone Pine attracts diverse tourism, also frequented by fans of its rich Western film history, including the 2nd best ever made: Tremors.

Horseshoe Meadows Road appears out the driver's side windows of the Dodge Grand Caravan, and upon first gaze, our best bad idea for an episode manifests in real life. We exit the highway, up the falsest flat foothills ever to our Sierra Nevada base camp heaven.

Our own team rider, Josh Tyrrell, needs no introduction. You know and love this international sports star, and if you don't, it's important that you pretend to, with your reputation on the line.

I made breakfast while Mehdi, our executive producer, DJ'd System Of A Down hits for everyone. Saxon, videographer and editor, actually knows the band personally and managed to get "Chop Suey" licensed for free.

While it appears that everyone slept really good, had a great breakfast, enjoyed the music, took their time getting out the door, liked each other's stories, that's no candid moment. We owe content to our sponsor for the Grand Caravan, and I think I did a pretty good job staging this photo per an item on the shotlist. It reads:

"STOW ‘N GO® seats folded away provide capacity for 2 bicycles and 3-4 adult men in cargo area, enjoying an unbuckled drive. Subjects should be comfortably expressing proximal companionship. One may be enjoying snack."

Dodge calls the Grand Caravan, "The Mother of All Minivans". Technically, our sponsor is Dodge Muscle Cars & Sports Cars, and they don't frown on public urination, but as far as their shotlist criteria goes there wasn't enough of what they call "action wholesome" in this one. 

"Cali[fornia]'s like the kid at school, that's good at sport, like super good-looking, smart, wealthy, got everything."

Saxon was born in Arizona but lives in California.

I'm not sure what it's called or if it's a common Australian trait, but when one has the detail orientation to care about the important stuff and simultaneously not give a single fuck; that is Gus.

Based on what I know from Josh, my favorite Canadian, if you take California, ice it, maybe sprinks in a little Arizona, you get Canada – even chiller!

Josh and Gus both experienced some hiccups in travel that delayed their arrival to late in the night, so we let the good boys sleep in. Even at the end of Spring, 9:30 in the morning is a bit of a warm start here at the base in Lone Pine. For every degree that the body's internal temperature rises, the heart beats approximately 10 bpm faster.

Much like seeing the eastern faces of the Teton Mountains from the National Park, the eastern slopes of Mount Whitney and its neighboring Sierras are just as well much steeper and way more badass than on the west. This is due to a fault-block that gradually rises to the east, like a storm cellar's angled door opening to the west and its staircase sloping to the east.

Uplift of the Eastern Sierras causes massive earthquakes including one of the largest in recorded history, the 1872 Lone Pine earthquake, which was similar in size to the 1906 San Francisco earthquake that destroyed over 80% of the city.

The ice is broken and fully melted. It's partly the heat and this foothill road that never ends, but upon taking a left onto Horseshoe Meadows Rd, hearts beat a little faster with a proper look at the work ahead.

It'll cool off at the top!

Pictured here, they're all smiles and a little scared at the very right-hand-side of the frame below:

Fast-forward through some compelling conversation on a ride impossibly befitting for conversation, Josh surprises Gus with a snack that Australian dreams and childhood punishments are made of.

Vegemite is a thick, black Australian food spread dispensed from a squeeze-tube, produced from leftover brewer's yeast extract. It's salty, malty, and slightly bitter – an umami flavor similar to beef bouillon. Vegemite is rich in B vitamins and announced pridefully in its branding. The narrator in the classic epic "Down Under" is generously given a Vegemite sandwich from a bread merchant in Brussels.

Gus: "To be  honest, when you asked guys me to do this I thought that the road they [ride] is inconsequential to the whole piece. It's just a narrative device to get them to talk. Dude, this is fully about... this is legitimately fucking hard."

"Hello, this is 911 Snaxon, are you hangry / what's your emergency?"

I'm not here to sell you a Dodge Grand Caravan. I don't need to tell you that the 283-horsepower 3.6L Pentastar® V6 Flex-Fuel engine packs more energy than the most determined toddlers. What you see here is that the DGC has room for seven, plus storage behind the third-row seat. With the Super Stow 'N Go® Seating and Storage System we get more than 140 cubic feet of free space when the second and third-row seats are stowed, and that means two very happy, perfectly cozy cameramen. Save the wrassling for the slumber parties.

Sponsor-correct footwear

Sponsor-corrected helmet

In proper "Luxury Sportsman" fashion (no pun), Gus' half-down skinsuit dangle's a trivial audio hardware complication to pay for substantial luxury gains.

If you've been with us throughout the series, you'll remember in Episode 4 that we honor and celebrate the sacrifice for luxury.

luxury (noun) – free or habitual indulgence in or enjoyment of comforts and pleasures in addition to those necessary for a reasonable standard of well-being

A distant view of Owens Valley

Some snow atop Muah Mountain is a good indication of mitigating temperatures.

Salvation is near.

TFW you crest the hardest climb of your life!

"I came to realize that the bike isn't just something to transport you from A to B – it's like a really unbelievable social device."

"I think people sort of obsess with going to the edge of the earth in order to have, or to believe that what they're having, is a true adventure. Whereas, my belief is: true adventure's at your back door."

"I'm happy we don't have to go up anymore 'cause I'm over it now."

I have not the slightest theoretical idea what artist, Michael Reader was thinking in his direction for the Specialized x Rocket Espresso graphics for this year, and I mean that in the best way possible. Loud, fashionable design with impossible cohesion and immediate timelessness is a foreign language you can't teach.

A rough translation of "Eamon Lucas" in Canadian

"Just a couple of sportsmen just doing what they love: Sports. With sports drink."

The boomerang's origin was a hunting tool used by aboriginal Australians, though today they're most commonly used for recreation. These sportsmen are well-studied in various throwing techniques and demonstrate the following:

  • The Alpine
  • The Mirage
  • The Albatross
  • The Matterhorn
  • The Sheep-Shagger

The Sheep-Shagger is a stimulating and dangerous throw. Though not usually lethal, it's too provocative to be televised and banned in international competition. 

For Gus' final demonstration, he prepares the boomerang for perfect flight with a smear of Vegemite to the tip, which acts as both an epoxy and grease. The Steve Irwin is for Australian experts only.

The Steve Irwin can only be performed once with any single boomerang. Gus insisted that it was retired on the mountaintop, but we couldn't resist keeping it for Riding Fixed... memorabilia.

Gus: "Do I need to put a brake on?

Josh: I think we should just suss1 it out. You'd be the first guest on the show to not use a brake going down.

Gus: Yeah I kind of feel like the challenge has been set now.

Josh: You'd get the most extra credit, all the fixie cred.

1suss out (verb) – (slang, transitive) To manage to work [something] out, to determine [something]

"We here at Riding Fixed Up [Mountains] with Pros are under a tightly monitored and controlled environment and, in no way, recommend riding a brakeless bike down a mountain. Freak accidents like chain slippage and tire deflation can occur, resulting in severe injury, so please, don't try this at home."

It's very clearly suggestive now in application that what Michael Reader had in mind with this design was to camouflage prospective road rash. I can barely see Gus' butt.

Totally reusable until the road rash heals – genius!

When the main image of the "Lone Pine, California" Wikipedia page is a Mexican Food restaurant, you bet Gus' bloody ass we're going.

"3 stars"

50 stars, 1 Australian, all the sports, most American man

3 kangs, 1 cigarette

Our Airbnb had 4 smoking patios.

When in Rome, you watch the best damn Western film ever made, Terminator 2.

Episode 6 cast & crew from left-to-right: Jeff, Saxon, Josh, Mehdi

Thank you to Angus Morton, our host, Dorothy, and System Of A Down. Hasta la vista, baby!

Article and photos by Jeff Olsen